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The 311 portal in the US

North America’s 311 system started off as a telephone hotline but is now being transformed into a digital portal.

Salsa Digital 25 July 2017

What is the 311 hotline?

The number 311 was a phone hotline set up in many areas of Canada and the US to take calls that fell into the public domain. It’s the number residents can call to report potholes, faulty street lights, graffiti, abandoned cars, public safety concerns, etc. It was originally set up to ensure these calls didn’t clog up emergency services on 911.

311 gone digital

Nowadays, the 311 concept is undergoing a digital transformation. A Digital Communities special report focuses on using the 311 tech to deliver an ‘Amazon-like’ experience to citizens. The report is divided into four sections:

The first part includes two case studies on how the digital service works in a big city (Boston) and in a smaller city (Somerville in Massachusetts). The Boston app, BOS:311, allows users to report a variety of issues straight into the app. For example, residents can take a photo of a pothole and geotag it for review and action by the city. BOS311 includes a smartphone app, website/web portal and the traditional phone hotline. The digital takeup in Boston is strong, with an average of 59% of service requests coming in through digital channels.

Importantly, the data collected from the portal is then used in the city’s decision-making around how to improve services, allocate resources, etc. In addition, it’s used to track the city’s performance against a benchmark service-level agreement.

The tech sits in the cloud, which the report says: “gives cities flexibility, including the ability to set up and launch 311 quickly.”

Salsa Digital’s take

The 311 hotline and its digital transformation is a great initiative in North America that would also work well here for local councils. So far we haven’t been able to find any similar setups here in Australia...but let us know if there is one operational! If not, maybe you can be the first.

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